The Ahmadiyya Muslim community of Calgary each year holds an interreligious dialogue in Cochrane with speakers from various religious perspectives all speaking on the same topic. In light of various world events, and especially in light of the Islamic extremists actions in murdering several Charlie Hebdojournalists in Paris for their “blasphemy” against the prophet Muhammad, this year’s dialogue was organized with the topic “Freedom of Expression and Respect for Religious Sanctities.” The dialogue, with presenters from Islam, Baha’ism, Native Aboriginal Spirituality, and Christianity, was held on April 9, 2015, at the Cochrane Ranchehouse Theatre. I was privileged to be asked to present the “Christian perspective” to the topic. This series is what I presented that evening.
Freedom of Expression and Respect for Religious Sanctities: A Christian Response (Part 3)
(7th Annual World Religions Conference, Cochrane, Alberta)
“Faith” or “belief,” which is a necessary requirement for God’s salvation, is a personal response to a message received. In order to “believe” in something a person must somehow receive the message – they must somehow “hear” it in order to respond to it.
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:13-14)
The Christian belief in freedom of expression is rooted in the doctrine of “the image of God” presented in the first chapter of the book of Genesis.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may ruleover the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)
Volumes have been written regarding this “image of God” in human beings means, but let me highlight a few important points pertinent to our discussion.
- It means that every human being (without exception) is precious and was created to “rule” over creation. It is royal language (“and let them rule”) – in other ancient literatures attributed only to the king as “the image of God,” now attributed to all humans, male and female alike. This gives dignity and worth to each and every person. Makes people distinct from all other creation – different from the animals and the rest of creation.
- It means that humans are created with a “spiritual consciousness,” a knowledge of a higher power, a yearning for God, and the ability to worship.
- It means that humans are inherently valuable to God. In spite of their sin, God deems them “worth saving.”
- As such, God has given every person the ability (and the necessity) to decide about their personal relationship with the Lord.
After he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. (Acts 16:30-34)
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
Religion is a personal matter between a soul and God. No one can make spiritual decisions for someone else – not parents, pastor, church, or government. No one can hand their own spiritual decisions for someone else to make. Everyone must personally choose to follow Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
No one can force someone else into a decision – it must be a personal choice. God gives every person understanding and the privilege of choice. We can choose to follow Him or reject Him.
Every time we give a gospel invitation, it means that people have the freedom to accept Christ as Savior.